September stretch a good time to answer questions concerning young players
By Curt Hogg
MILWAUKEE -- Sitting well under .500 and coming off a rough August, the Brewers are far out of any postseason discussions, but they will still look to find value in September as the team's rebuilding process continues.
With rosters expanding on Thursday, Milwaukee's first wave of additions to the active roster will come in the form of two pitchers returning from injury. Right-hander Junior Guerra, the 31-year-old rookie who has been the Brewers' best starter this season, will come off the disabled list to start Friday at Pittsburgh. Reliever Jacob Barnes, a 26-year-old rookie who displayed an electric arm at times during his 17 big league innings this season, is also expected to return for that game.
"Getting some reinforcements from the DL provides some near-term depth," general manager David Stearns said. "That's a good place to start."
The seasons for Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Colorado Springs are still in progress, so the Brewers' list of immediate callups may be limited, but both Minor League teams conclude their regular season on Monday.
Stearns and manager Craig Counsell have confirmed that Milwaukee will be adding a third catcher to the roster. Andrew Susac, who was acquired from San Francisco at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline for left-hander Will Smith, is already on the 40-man roster, making him a logical candidate. Susac is on the DL with a left oblique strain, but he "is progressing well," according to Stearns. Susac will be active for Colorado Springs' final series over the weekend.
Catchers Josmil Pinto and Michael McKenry, though not on the 40-man roster, could also be the team's third catcher for September if the Brewers opt against Susac. Milwaukee created room on the roster by outrighting infielder Will Middlebrooks on Tuesday.
Per usual, the most buzz surrounding September callups will pertain to what the Brewers decide to do with some of their top prospects in what is baseball's No. 1 farm system, according to MLBPipeline.com. This season, the two names generating the most attention are left-hander Josh Hader and outfielder Lewis Brinson.
Could Hader, a participant in the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and the team's No. 4 prospect, serve as a one-inning reliever or a left-handed specialist in September? As Hader will be Rule 5 Draft-eligible this offseason, Milwaukee will need to add him to the 40-man roster by November, anyway.
"I think what I'd say to that is we're still evaluating all options," Stearns said. "Josh is a guy who has had a good year. A very full year. We just need to determine what's best for him. He's had a full Minor League season at two very challenging levels."
Acquired at the Deadline in the deal that sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers, Brinson is the Brewers' No. 2 prospect, and he has hit .397 with four homers at Colorado Springs since being acquired. Brinson is not on the 40-man roster.
Some more questions that the Brewers will to answer in September: Can a revitalized Wily Peralta stabilize a rotation spot for 2017? On what note do young outfielders Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana end their seasons? Can rookie shortstop and top prospect Orlando Arcia continue to make offensive adjustments? How does Guerra bounce back after missing a month with right elbow inflammation?
"I think really, September for us is a continuation of what we've been striving for the entire season," Stearns said. "Continue to create a positive culture and keep growing our core of young players. You've seen aspects of that through the season, and we've got five more weeks to progress toward that goal. These five weeks are as important as any others in the season."
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.